Hellfest: Days 7 & 8

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 24: Travelling from Nantes to Portsmouth

June 25: Arriving in Portsmouth

Tuesday, June 24

After a decent night’s sleep, we woke up and had breakfast – only Jamie and I had opted to have the €4 all you can eat breakfast, which wasn’t amazing, but we got through enough brioche to keep us going. We then packed up our stuff for the final time, and met down at reception to get our taxi to Nantes station. Having booked the taxis the night before, and knowing there had been some misunderstandings, I wondered if both of our taxis would turn up, and they didn’t. The first one arrived, and Julia, Zakk and Claire went to Nantes station in that, but our second one didn’t arrive. Having been told the night before that it was hopeless to try and call for a taxi during the day, I reluctantly asked if she could call another taxi for the other four of us. It took her about half an hour to get through, but eventually we had a taxi to take us to the station as well – fortunately we had a four hour wait before our train so we were in no hurry! I had a nice conversation with our taxi driver as well which was nice, just about the festival and stuff like that, but Jamie, Dave and Mikey said it sounded impressive haha. 

After our lengthy wait outside Nantes station flew by, we got on our train to Rennes, and, this time, had a gloriously easy platform change which was nice! Now we had a ferry to catch, we didn’t want any unnecessary delays. My mood was slightly dampened when I managed to have a fall on the train, landing really hard on my coccyx (as well as banging my head), which hurt so much it actually winded me, and left me in pain for the whole train journey to St Malo. Fortunately nothing too bad came of it, so it could have been a lot worse, just an ache for the next few weeks. We made the uncomfortable walk to the ferry terminal from St Malo station in ridiculous heat and carrying more than was comfortable. Jamie and I both felt really ill and sick from the heat and walking, both of us nearly throwing up at several points, but we made it to the ferry terminal and were able to sit down, finally. Jamie and I had been entertaining the idea of booking a cabin for the trip back ever since our uncomfortable night’s sleep on the way here, and when we found out it was £66 for us to upgrade to a room (and that my mum was happy to pay for it), we jumped at the chance and booked one. I don’t think it went down particularly well with everyone else but we were past caring really. We tried to downplay it a bit to everyone, but the cabin was actually somewhat nicer than our hotel room! The bathroom was definitely bigger – and had a built in bottle opener for some reason – and the beds were perfectly comfortable. We had a quick lie down, and were both showered before we’d even left port! Definitely one of the better decisions we’ve made, and, if we take the ferry again, we will definitely be booking a cabin! 

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Our cabin!

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Cabin selfie

We spent the evening up on deck again, having a couple of cocktails in the bar, a chat with a waitress who had been to Hellfest, and obviously another croque monsieur for dinner again. We then settled down in our bunks and quickly and comfortably went to sleep! 

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Sunset over La Manche

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Wednesday, June 25

After falling asleep around midnight, naturally waking up at 6am was a bit odd. We kept getting confused about what time it was in England/France, what time it was on the boat, and what time in which time zone we were getting into port, so we always gave ourselves an extra hour to get ready. Despite this, we ended up pulling into Portsmouth much earlier than was scheduled, so we hardly had any time to get ready anyway. 

After meeting up with everyone else, and making our way back to Southampton, Jamie, Dave and I decided to have a proper Spoons breakfast, which we were craving. Feeling pretty good after that, we then slept the afternoon away! Although an absolutely exhausting week, mentally and physically, Hellfest was absolutely incredible, and hopefully we can do the same next year! Attempting another route or mode of transport might be an idea though, especially as there are flights between Nantes and Southampton! 

Hellfest: Day 6

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 23: Travelling from Clisson to Nantes

Monday, June 23

We woke up early on our leaving day to avoid being drenched in sweat for our journey to Nantes! We went to fill up a few bottles of water for the trip to find that the water was being rationed at the H2O, and we had to fill up our bottles elsewhere – probably due to the fact they were starting to run out of water by this point, unsurprisingly.

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My first aid kit coming to use with Mikey’s severe sunburn 

We finished packing up, and were all ready to go by half eleven, minus Zakk and Claire who were slow to get their massive tent packed up. Eventually, we left by about half twelve, and went to the festival entrance to find a shuttle bus to Clisson station. There was a significant queue, but it disappeared quickly and we were in a navette after about fifteen minutes. 

When we arrived at Clisson station, we found a huge queue for tickets, the back of which we had to join. This was almost an appropriate time for me to start feeling ridiculously faint, most likely from the heat, so I had to have a glamorous lie down on the pavement and a cheeky sprint to one of the cafes nearby to use their bathroom. Fortunately I felt a bit better by the time we eventually got to the front of the queue. We then discovered we’d managed to miss a train to Nantes by two minutes which was annoying, and we then had an hour and a half to wait for the next one. Some resentment towards Zakk and Claire started to bubble up at this point, who could have been slightly quicker at getting packed. 

Anyway, the day was predominantly killing time regardless of what we were doing, so we found a good spot on the station platform, and I managed to get in a reasonable hour and a half nap which was nice. Eventually we got our train to Nantes, and, in a much less stressful fashion than the last time we were at this station, managed to find two taxis to go to our hotel. We were staying the night at a hotel as there were no ferries back to Portsmouth on the Monday night, so we had to book the one on the Tuesday. The hotel was adequate, pretty basic, but luxurious in comparison to our accommodation for the last four nights. Some of us had trouble checking in as the girl at the reception desk only spoke French to us, but we eventually managed it and found our rooms – Jamie and I being on the top floor, and well out of earshot from the rest of our group, so we looked forward to a quiet night! Despite being a fairly basic hotel, there was fully functioning wifi which was absolutely brilliant, so a lot of my evening was spent on that! A shower, of course, was my first priority. 

After my shower, I made a post on facebook which let people know where I was, just saying how amazing Hellfest had been and how I was looking forward to sleeping in a proper bed! By some relatively bizarre coincidence, Dave and I both got a message from our friend, Dave Bass, who we knew from home but who hadn’t travelled with us to the festival, saying he was in the same hotel as us! We all came out of our rooms, kind of confused, and, of course, Dave did as well! We had a proper MARS gathering (Metal and Rock Society at Southampton Solent University, of which I am an honorary member) and a photo, minus Giulia, who had already gone home to Portugal, and we had a really nice evening! Me, Jame, Dave Littlewood and Dave Bass went to McDonalds for food, as that was definitely one of the selling points of the area we were staying in, and then went to Leclerc to find some other things we needed. Dave Bass and I went to book taxis for the next day, even though I managed to mess it up so many times, and I wondered if I’d actually got it right once the receptionist had made the booking haha. We watched the World Cup in the evening, and got a relatively early night, so it turned out to be a really nice evening, when it wasn’t expected to be that interesting at all. 

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Me and a Mr Bass!

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Me and Jamie being grown ups in the McDonald’s climbing frame

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Dave, me and Jamie

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Sunset in Nantes

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MARS group photo: me, Jamie, Mikey, Dave Littlewood, Dave Bass, Zakk and Julia

 

 

Hellfest: Day 5

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 22: Third day of Hellfest

Sunday, June 22

This morning, after a few blisteringly hot days in France, we woke up to grey clouds overhead! We weren’t overheating as much which was excellent, and we even had a few minutes of rain – nothing torrential, but we basked in its coolness nonetheless! 

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There is a god!

We went down to the arena mid afternoon for the third and final day of the festival, and sat at the back of the arena for Powerwolf, Seether, and Angra, who Jamie and I were really impressed by. After Angra was Alter Bridge – my favourite band and one of the main reasons I came to Hellfest, so the whole weekend had been leading up to this point! We managed to get into a really good spot for them, only a few rows from the front, and I was completely intolerable with excitement. After the rain had gone, Sunday became the hottest day of the festival, and so they had brought in the fire department and hoses, who sprayed the crowd as the bands played to keep them cool. That alone created quite a fun atmosphere, so the crowd were in high spirits. Alter Bridge were, of course, outstanding, and Myles said it was one of the best shows they’d had on this tour. Jamie even let me go up on his shoulders for Rise Today, the last song, and it was absolutely incredible! I did have a little eye contact with Brian Marshall as well which was so awesome. If I’d been up there a little bit longer, Myles would have been standing directly in front of me which would have been absolutely mind blowing and I’d never have shut up about it, but Jamie had to put me down before then. It was still fifty of the best minutes of my life, and I could barely stop smiling! Alter Bridge absolutely made Hellfest for me.

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Myles Kennedy

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Mark Tremonti

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Soggy selfie post Alter Bridge

After that, I was in a particularly good mood; we watched some of Annihilator, who were on after Alter Bridge, and then went back to the H2O point to use the bathroom and get more water. We came back and sat at the back of the arena again for Behemoth, Soundgarden and Emperor, none of whom we were especially keen on, and then met up with everyone (or planned to) for Black Sabbath. Eventually we only met with Dave, who was feeling ill again, and sat at the back. There were over 150,000 people there that night, so the place was heaving again. Sabbath weren’t the most phenomenal band I’ve ever seen, but I’m glad I saw them, as I probably won’t get another chance – lots of other people really enjoyed their set so that was good. I went to check out a few songs from Soilwork’s set as well, who were playing in a tent, but they didn’t play any I knew while I was there. 

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Pre Sabbath selfie

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Black Sabbath

We got back late that night, and packed up as much of our stuff as possible while it was cool, so we were ready to leave in the morning. We then settled down for our final night of sleeping in a tent! 

Hellfest: Day 4

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 21: Second day of Hellfest

Saturday, June 21

In my (albeit limited) experience of festivals, I’ve found that Saturdays are normally the worst, or least best, of the three days, and Hellfest seemed to follow that trend as there weren’t so many bands I was keen on. We had a more chilled out day than Friday; we went into the arena earlier in the day by sat in the shade instead of in the sun by our tents. We overheard/watched Buckcherry, The Walking Papers, We Came As Romans, and Extreme before finding some food and changing our position to the back of the main arena. We stayed there for Status Quo, who were really good, and who I really enjoyed despite only knowing three or four songs. They definitely made me keen to have a listen to some more Quo albums. 

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We also stayed there for Hatebreed, Soulfly, Deep Purple, and Aerosmith. From our friends who had been to Download festival a week earlier, we were told that Aerosmith were absolutely phenomenal and we’d be mad to miss them. I’m glad I saw them, as I’ll unlikely have another chance, but I didn’t think they were particularly mind blowing or anything. The songs everyone knew were fun, however. 

The general population of the crowd had significantly changed today, too; the average age had gone up by about a decade or two, and we assumed a lot of people had bought day tickets for the Saturday, specifically for Status Quo/Deep Purple/Aerosmith, as they’re all of the same kind of era. The crowd was easily 25% larger than the night before as well, the place was absolutely heaving! 

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Aerosmith

We left before the end of Aerosmith to go and see a bit of Gorgoroth in one of the tents, mainly for a laugh and to be able to put another band on the ‘seen’ list. After a couple of songs we went to The Valley to see Philip H Anselmo and The Illegals, hoping to see a Pantera cover or two. He’d pulled in a massive crowd, spilling out the sides of the tent, and was clearly very well received, but we only saw one Pantera cover which was Death Rattle, a song I don’t know (apparently they played Domination at some point during their set though, gutted). 

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Philip H Anselmo and The Illegals

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The arena

We went back to the main arena for Avenged Sevenfold, the last band of the night, who, although being amongst my favourite bands, weren’t amazing in my eyes. They put on a good show and were entertaining, but their setlist was the same as I’d seen before, and it consisted too much of songs off their new album, which I’m not crazy about. Dave also felt really ill again, so we left early to take him back to the tent, but we weren’t too bothered. 

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Avenged Sevenfold

Hellfest: Day 3

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 20: First day of Hellfest

Friday, June 20

Despite going to sleep freezing cold, and therefore in a thick hoodie and trackies, we woke up absolutely dripping in sweat, in a tent definitely exceeding 40°C. We quickly found cooler things to wear as the heat was unbearable, ripped open the door to our tent, and got out of the furnace we’d just been sleeping in. Only mid morning, it was already 20°+ outside, but definitely still cooler than the tent! It would have been even nicer if there was even the hint of a breeze, but there wasn’t. In the humidity of the tent we found a lot of our stuff had melted, such as food we’d brought with chocolate in it, and some of my make up which was nice. 

Now we were up, we went to find the nearest toilets which were quite close and not in too bad a condition (bearing in mind it was only Friday morning, and we were right in assuming they would deteriorate over the course of the weekend) despite being squats, which were good enough for the time being. The morning’s tasks were to take a trip to the H2O point near the metal village, and then to go to the supermarket nearby. Despite the average temperature over the weekend being well over 20°C, there were still very few points at which you could get drinking water. The H2O point allowed you unlimited drinking water and showers, for the price of a €6 wristband – absolute bargain in my opinion, so we went to the vending point and bought one each – one for me and one for Jamie – and then filled up a few water bottles with cold, cold, water before we went back. We also discovered the toilets next to the H2O point were the nicest and best maintained out of all the ones we’d found (and would find), so made them our designated toilets for the weekend. 

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We found a Dave! 

We then made our way to the Leclerc (a French supermarket chain) which was a few minutes away from the campsite. We mainly went to get snacks and drinks, just so we weren’t buying all our food from the expensive food stalls at the festival and so we had more than enough to drink. We came away with what we needed plus a couple of wicker mats to sit on in the arena which were so useful. The enormity of the shop was amazing though – absolutely massive, and obviously catered to deal with the 100,000+ metal heads descending on Clisson that weekend. It never ran out of alcohol, food, camping accessories, or ready made sandwiches, so the whole thing was very impressive! About 99% of the clientele were indeed from Hellfest, and they even had the staff wearing Hellfest shirts, clearly the allocated supermarket for the festival! We then went back to the campsite and spent a couple of hours trying to cool off, which was a very difficult task between the hours of 12pm and 4pm, when we were least busy, in a campsite with very limited shade. We did give up eventually and made our way to the arena.

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Better than Disneyland!

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The arena was absolutely incredible! They had two main stages set up next to one another, with alternating bands on either stage while the other was being set up, so waiting time between bands was never more than about ten minutes (absolutely inconceivable having only ever been to Download festival, whose organisation could be improved)! There were two screens set up for those stages as well, so you everything was visible from most of the arena. There were two tents, holding the Altar, Temple, and Valley stages, as well as the Warzone stage over the other side of the arena. There were more bars than I could count, probably fewer toilets than there should have been, two merch stands, more food stands than you could count, with an unbelievable range of food, a ferris wheel, and, best of all, the Forest of Muscadet, a large shady area which was heaving from the morning until about 11pm. However we’d also discovered by this point that this festival would be really dusty thanks to it being so dry, not so great for the asthmatics among us. 

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The main stages

The first band we saw was Therapy?, who Jamie had been told were quite good, but they weren’t anything amazing. We also started our afternoon sitting out by one of the main stage screens, in the sun, but soon saw the error in our ways. Sensibly, we went and sat in the shade where I believe we found Mikey and Dave. Another band were supposed to be on main stage, but Trivium’s, a band we wanted to see, backdrop and stage set up were on the free stage, despite the fact they weren’t supposed to be playing until 1am. A band came on, definitely sounding like Trivium, so we went back out to watch them, although there were probably plenty of people who missed them because of their last minute time change. Having seen them once before, this was definitely their inferior set, and the sound in particular was quite bad, although we assumed they’d probably had limited time to set up. 

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Trivium

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Rob Zombie were on next, and we kind of wandered around during their set. I went and got in the queue for merch as we thought the sooner we buy some the better, or they’d likely sell out, and Jamie went to fill up our water bottles as we got through it quickly. After them, we sat in the shade for Sepultura’s set. After some food, we went to see Turisas in one of the tents, where it was shady and much cooler, so we wished we’d got there earlier! Turisas were also very good live; despite not knowing a huge number of their songs, they were really entertaining. 

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Turisas

Iron Maiden, Friday’s headliner, were on next. We found a nice spot to stand in, although it quickly got so busy I couldn’t see, and we were all exhausted from the heat anyway, so decided to sit down at the back in the shade (this turned into one of our favourite spots). I honestly don’t know a) how people managed to stand at the front all day or for any part of the day, or b) who had the energy to physically exert themselves at any point during the day. One of our friends was in the third row for Iron Maiden, and I’ve no idea how she survived it. It was about this time that my sunburn sustained from earlier on started to appear, despite dousing myself in SPF 50, so I was looking forward to being super uncomfortable for the next few days! 

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Jamie, me and Mikey in the crowd for Iron Maiden

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Iron Maiden

As usual, Iron Maiden put on a great show, and they performed for over two hours which was great, the longest of all three headliners. By the end of their set it was dark, and, having had a clear sky all day, it was suddenly really cold; thinking it would be pointless, I hadn’t brought a jumper. I shivered away through Slayer’s set, who were good, and I’m glad I saw them, but I was shattered by this point – Hellfest have cool down bands on after the headliner, so the music goes on until 2.15! Jamie was still raring to go as Sabaton, his favourite band, were last on the bill for the night. 

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Ferris wheel

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Sabaton

We found a great spot to watch them from, although as soon as they came on, a pit opened up, throwing loads of dust into the air and I had to get out. We found another good spot, less perfect, but a lot more comfortable and still with a great view. I was tired and with my lungs full of dust, so less than enthusiastic, but Sabaton definitely put on a good show and were very entertaining, so I was impressed even though I’m not too keen on their music. With a very happy Jamie, who had also bought a new Sabaton shirt, we went back to the tent about 1, and we didn’t make the same mistake of wrapping up in winter gear again! 

Hellfest: Day 2

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 19: Travelling from St Malo to Clisson

Thursday, June 19

This morning, we woke up in our seats after six hours’ uncomfortable sleep. I’d managed to stay asleep for a few hours solidly, but would wake up stiff and uncomfortable and have to move. Regardless, we only had an hour until we docked at St Malo, so we got up and ready, had breakfast (a pain au chocolat, of course) at the cafe, and then stood up on the top deck to watch as we came into St Malo, a relatively attractive seaside town. 

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Another culturally correct meal 

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We got off the ferry with our next job to be to find la Gare de St Malo. Fortunately, I’d saved some maps onto my phone for useful locations, so at least I knew the general direction in which to go (I’d gained the nickname ‘#organised’ by the end of this trip). It wasn’t the best of walks, maybe just over a mile to a mile and a half, mostly uphill, and in already quite uncomfortable heat. We managed to find the station, though, and settled down on the platform for a four hour wait for our train. I’d assumed St Malo, being the end of the line, would be a big station, a kind of London terminus affair, but it was very small, with four platforms and hardly anyone around. 

Dave hadn’t been feeling well since we left, and was feeling worse this morning, so we had to take a trip to the pharmacy (where my French skills first became useful), although he declined her suggestion of visiting a doctor at that point. He slept most of our waiting time away instead, which hopefully helped a little bit. Before we’d even left St Malo, I’d had to speak to a pharmacist, a station guard, and order a Subway, so my French was necessary from the get go! After our rather lengthy wait at St Malo, we got on our first train to Rennes, where we had to change.

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A blurry photo of our train ticket for the day

We got off our train at Rennes and went up to the main part of the station to check the departure board for the platform of our next train – our train times were printed on our tickets so we knew which one we’d booked seats on. Not only could we not find a platform number, there was also no sign of the particular train we’d been booked onto. Being the least linguistically challenged in this country, I went to the information point to speak to a nice man, who spoke no English to me whatsoever, as well as his SNCF timetable. I told him the time of the train we’d booked, but apparently our train didn’t exist. He said we could get on the next one to Nantes, where we needed to get to, which was an hour and a half later than our original train. I reckoned the train strikes in central France had had a knock on effect, but at least we were still able to get a train not too long later. Of course, no one else was particularly pleased by this news, and the messenger was somewhat shot in this situation, but we had no choice but to hang around until the next train to Nantes. I managed to get a pretty decent nap in before we had to get on, and this trip definitely improved my ability to wait for hours on end, and to be able to sleep in public or noisy places, which I’d never have been able to do before.

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Hobo chic

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Jamie on the train to Nantes

After a slight hiccup, we made it to Nantes station, about a half an hour’s drive from the festival, where we expected to get a shuttle bus to Hellfest. After another trip to an information point, I was told there were no shuttle buses and we would need to get a train to Clisson. At this point, thanks to our delay, we had ten minutes before the next train to Clisson, and we didn’t have tickets. The next one was a few hours later, and it was already getting late. I got in the queue for tickets but our chances of catching this train were dissipating by the second, as the queue was slow moving with a gradually reducing number of open windows, instead of increasing. Before I ended up spending €40ish on tickets for a train we wouldn’t get, I gave up, and we thought maybe a taxi would be a quicker and easier option. I asked one of the drivers in the rank how much a taxi to Clisson would be, bearing in mind we would need two for the seven of us; €100 per taxi was not quite the answer I wanted, so we swiftly dismissed that idea. We eventually ran into some other people (I assumed from Italy) who were trying to make their way to the festival as well, so we helped each other out, and managed to find two big coaches going to Clisson and apparently free! It seemed the train strikes had messed up plans for a lot of people, as the coaches were heaving. 

It took about an hour to drive to Clisson station as the traffic was awful, but it was easy to find a shuttle bus at the station for €2 each – an absolute bargain when we’d already managed to save a lot of money on getting to Clisson. We had another ten minute drive to the entrance of the festival, and then we’d finally made it! For me, at least, there was a great sense of relief at this point! 

We got our wristbands, and found two of Dave’s friends who showed us to the campsite, and started pitching our tents in the very heart of it. We were right next to the entrance to red camp, as well as the rather interesting smelling hole-in-the-ground toilets, so this wasn’t the ideal location. We also found that our tents wouldn’t fit in the space we’d found, especially with Zakk’s two-man-but-somehow-the-size-of-a-six-man tent. We decided to move elsewhere; we found a space further away from all the action, but one that was quieter and with a lot more space. It was already getting dark by now, so we didn’t want to be putting up our tents for too much longer, but by about 11pm, most of us were done. It had taken around 30 hours from door to door to do our whole journey, a figure that seemed embarrassing when, the next day, Jamie and I ended up talking to a guy from Hamilton in New Zealand, who had left his home at the same time we did in order to be at the festival on time. 

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The metal village

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Entrance to the arena

We decided to go for a bit of a wander before we went to bed, first to the metal village as that seemed the most vibrant place, right next to the entrance, and with a great atmosphere! Definitely the perfect place to get pumped up for the music. We tried to find drinking water but the water point was closed, as well as food, where we had to queue for ages at one of two food stalls. The bars were full, everyone was shattered, and Mikey had already managed to lose his wallet by midnight, so it was a great start for everyone. After a nice clear day, the temperature suddenly dropped, so we decided enough was enough and went to bed (lying down!). 

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Hellfest: Day 1

June 18 – June 25, 2014

June 18: Boarding our overnight ferry

Wednesday, June 18

This year I travelled to my first international music festival! A decent number of my friends had decided they would do a group trip to Hellfest (Clisson, France) and, after some debate as to whether I’d actually be able to go due to the potential dates of my field trip, I found out the two trips didn’t clash and I booked myself a ticket to France! There were a few groups of people I knew taking different routes, but I travelled with Jamie, Dave, Mikey, Zakk, Julia and Claire, so we had a decent number. 

On the Wednesday, we eagerly, and with the most energy we’d have all week, left Southampton and took a train to Portsmouth. Supposedly the easy part of the trip, we could barely find space on the train for the seven of us to sit as well as space for our luggage, of which there was a hell of a lot. We managed to sort it, and succeeded in the first leg of our trip! We then walked for about a mile to get to the ferry port, checked in, bought a last minute first aid kit which would happen to be very useful, and boarded our ferry! We were sailing on the Bretagne, which would be roughly an eleven hour journey to St Malo in the north of France. 

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We’d booked reclining seats for the night, similar to what you would have in a plane (economy class, of course), so we found where our seats would be for the night, and then went to explore the boat. I wasn’t expecting it to be that great, but I was so impressed! There were several bars and restaurants, shops, plenty of places to sit, and lots of outside deck space. Seeing as the weather was so nice, we sat up outside on the top deck as we left Portsmouth, before Jamie and I went downstairs to find some food (being after 8pm by the time we left, we were hungry). We found a cafe which did a nice range of food, and I, appropriately, had a croque monsieur, which was really good! We then watched some of the World Cup, went up to the bar for a cocktail, spent some more time outside with everyone, and then went to sleep. 

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First selfie of the trip: me, Jamie, Dave and Mikey

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My appropriate dinner

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Not a bad sunset, southern tip of the Isle of Wight

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Sunset selfie

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Nightcap